When a network TV show performs badly, the networks deliberately introduce errors into the episodes' metadata before submitting it to the Nielsen ratings, so that the episode is counted as a separate show and doesn't bring the season's average rating down.
NBC has falsified its records for the "NBC Nightly News" 14 times this season -- including an entire consecutive week of this orthographic shenanigans -- while ABC has changed its "World News Tonight" to "Wrld News Tonite" seven times so far, and CBS has had a round dozen submissions of its new flagship, the "CBS Evening Nws."
Networks also routinely falsify their metadata for reruns, so that the lower rerun viewership doesn't bring down the first-run average.
Nielsen has vowed revenge: "if we find a network working in contrast to this agreed-upon policy, we address the issue in a direct fashion as a way to maintain fairness and balance over all of our clients and the industry as a whole."
If I mistakenly write "NBC Nitely News," you can probably still tell what program I'm talking about. Nielsen's automated system can't, however, and a report Thursday in The Wall Street Journal details how networks are taking advantage of that fact to disguise airings that underperform with viewers.
It's described as a common practice in the world of TV ratings, where programs with higher ratings can charge advertisers more to run commercials. When an episode performs poorly with viewers, the networks often intentionally misspell the show title in their report to Nielsen, according to the Journal. This fools the system into separating that airing out as a different show and keeping it from affecting the correctly-spelled show's average overall rating.
TV networks hide bad ratings with typos, report says
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